It is completely understandable why Jews and Israelis are extremely nervous and frightened about their safety in the world right now.
With the Holocaust, 6-million Jews were victims of the most horrendous and calculated crime against humanity in the history of the world. Jews and non-Jews alike who visit Nazi extermination camps come away shaken and outraged, marked for life by the experience.
As November 11 approaches, we are also reminded of the 100,000 Canadian and Newfoundland soldiers killed or wounded fighting Nazi Germany in World War Two. Still, along with many countries, Canada shares in the guilt for allowing some of Adolf Hitler’s Nazis to escape after the war, full responsibility for the Holocaust.
As a result of the Holocaust, the Jewish people have the absolute moral and political right to safety and security within Israel and around the world, and they have the right to defend themselves.
Earlier this month, with the horrific slaughter by Hamas fighters of Israelis within the boundaries of Israel, memories of the Holocaust are rekindled for Jews all over the world.
Nevertheless, in a region of the world, which is so complex in its history and make-up, we must seek a balanced approach to its seemingly intractable problems.
The current chaos in the Middle East comes as the largely discredited Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appears to be using war to survive in his job. Over the spring and summer, an unprecedented number of Israelis took to the streets to protest Netanyahu’s attempt to curb the powers of the country’s judicial system and its rule of law. After his press conference this weekend, and sharp questioning by his own Israeli press, it seems clear that win or lose, he is unlikely to survive this war as Prime Minister.
Several earlier leaders of Israel stood for a strong country militarily, but also sought peace. Golda Meir, throughout her lengthy career as Prime Minister, pressed for a peace settlement in the Middle East through diplomatic means. Menachem Begin, one of the great “hawks” of Israeli politics, shared the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize with Anwar Sadat. Shimon Peres a leader in Israeli politics for 70 years, including several terms as Prime Minster, shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
These efforts did not result in lasting peace for Israel and its neighbours, but they did result in progress, and far less turmoil than exists in the region today.
Thomas Friedman, the renowned columnist for the New York Times, notes that Netanyahu is using the most dangerous four words, “Once and for all” in his fight to “destroy” Hamas. Friedman argues It has taken a much more sophisticated approach, including patience, precision, and alliance-building to bring the decline of other similar entities, such as the Taliban, ISIS, and Al Qaeda. Friedman suggests it would be a mistake for Israel to conduct a massive ground invasion and relentless air strikes in Gaza in attempting to accomplish its objectives.
For Israel, every “terrorist” that Netanyahu and his country’s military kill, there will be a teenage Palestinian who steps forward, honor-bound to commit revenge. Is this an effective way for Israel to end the cycle of violence and death?
As of now, Israel has not launched its full invasion, but already there is a huge loss of life, not only for Hamas fighters but innocent Palestinians as well. It has reduced this slim and intensely populated land mass, to a wrecking ground with precious little food, water, fuel, light, communications, and medical care. Gaza has one of the youngest populations of any country or territory in the world. Thus, children figure inordinately in the deaths of Palestinians.
The situation in Gaza also threatens to broaden the current war to neighboring states, including Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, and Syria. Already, the USA has conducted air strikes inside Syria.
For Hamas, ruthless killing and hostage-taking is not the way to win support across the world for their cause, a Palestinian state for their people.
The Palestinians and Israelis lay claim to much the same territory. Although the two-state solution is imprecise and unproven, it may still offer the best long-term solution for the region.
Because of their horrendous history with the Holocaust, the Jewish people absolutely deserve special consideration today. But along with the Palestinians they must play the long game toward peace.